Welcome, welcome, welcome to armchair expert I'm Dan Shepherd, I am joined by Monica Miles, but she's just not here in this hotel room with me where I recorded this intro on a work trip.
We have an incredible bonus episode today with Jennifer Eberhardt. Jennifer Lynn Eberhardt is a social psychologist who is currently a professor in the Department of Psychology at Stanford University. Jennifer received her PhD from Harvard University, joined the faculty at Yale University in psychology and African-American departments, and later joined the Stanford faculty in nineteen ninety eight.
Her work highlights the negative impact that racial bias can have on us and provides clear direction on what we can do about it. Amid unprecedented inequality and growing polarization around the world, she is enlisting science in the fight for equal justice.
Please check out her new TED talk, how racial bias works and how to disrupt it. Please enjoy Jennifer Eberhardt.
He's in our chat. Jennifer, you're busy. You're a professor, and I have to imagine with everything that's going on right now that you're even extra in demand. Is that accurate? That's accurate.
OK, now you live up in San Francisco?
Well, I live near San Francisco. I actually live on Stanford's campus. Oh, is that dreamy? It is actually, you know, just a lot of space and pretty and accessible and all of that. So it's good. We moved here about ten years ago.
I was just telling Monica when I got here already in a complete panic about interviewing you because you have so much interesting work.
And generally I have like a page in notes and I have three, which is daunting. And I'm already panicked about the time we have with you.
So what I'm always curious about is anyone that finds themselves pursuing a certain line of work. I think it's always kind of relevant to find out why they were drawn to that in the first place. And you have kind of a very specific childhood experience, which is you grew up in a primarily black section of Cleveland and then you moved. I don't know what age you moved to Beachwood.
Yeah, I moved at 12 years old. And Beachwood is almost all white. Still is a really different experience.
What did mom and dad do for a living? Well, my father was what we call the mailman's at the time. I guess they call them postal carriers or something now. But you know whose mailman?
He was also an antique dealer and so really had like a foot in, like, two really radically different worlds. And my mother was a data input clerk at the federal building downtown. And so we had a sort of working class background. But then my father also dealt in antiques and so it exposed him to a different world.
So when you moved to Beachwood, you start becoming aware of race. You kind of become very aware now of this maybe for the first time. Yeah.
I mean, you're always aware of it as even as a black child in a black neighborhood, that there is this other world out there. But I didn't have any meaningful relationships with people outside my race, you know, before I was 12 years old. So that's the big change. And just having friends and people who were all white basically. Yeah. Was radically different from anything I ever knew before that moment. How was that transition?
It was hard for different reasons than what I had anticipated. So I was worried, you know, black girl going to this school and I was worried about whether I would belong and whether kids would make fun of me or, you know, just whether I would fit in, basically. And so I get there and the students are pretty warm and friendly. You know, they're showing me around and kind of telling me about the school and they are just going out of their way to be friends with me.
But it was still really, really difficult to make friends, and that was because I could not tell their faces apart.
Which becomes a big part of your work in the future. Yeah, so fascinating. And I don't want to jump to the story of your son, but that's a juicy nugget waiting for us.
So you're saying you kind of had a hard time reading maybe the social cues or the non-verbal stuff.
So it wasn't just the social cues, but basically I just couldn't distinguish one face from another. So my brain didn't have practice at doing that. And so I didn't know how to tell them apart, basically.
So so that caused a problem because I really wanted to have friends. But then it's kind of hard to have friends when you don't know who your friend is, you know, that kind of thing. So.
Right. Right, Becky, it is so but my brain actually did learn a way to distinguish among the faces eventually. And I you know, I was able to have friends there, but I was very panicked for a good while on, like, whether I would be able to do this. And I didn't know what was wrong with me. And I thought, like something had happened to me where I couldn't perform this really basic function. And so it was kind of scary.
But, you know, it turns out, you know, this is actually an example of this. They call it the other race effect in the sciences. And so it's just this phenomena where you're much better at recognizing faces of your own race than faces of other races. And in a lot of that has to do with simple exposure.
Yeah, and I think everyone's had the experience or thinking some group is harder to distinguish than other groups. And I think maybe in general, because we're trapped in our own perspective, I don't think it's occurred to many white people that Asian people think all white people look to think, oh, yeah, it's like, yeah, it's goes both directions.
And then you started noticing some more. Troubling things as well, right? You started noticing the frequency with which your father got pulled over, say, by the police, was different than the frequency of your friend's white parents.
Right. So I have never heard about a white family or anybody in the family getting pulled over by the police. But that did happen to us when we moved there and especially early on when the cops didn't know who we were or that we lived in the area. We were sort of the subjects of suspicion, and especially my brothers and my father. My sister and I were you know, we didn't capture the attention of the police as much.
That was going to be. My next question is, if you had siblings and if there was a difference in how you were greeted versus a brother.
Yeah, I mean, it was there. I mean, they would follow my brother. Sometimes they would want to know where they were going, where they lived. So a lot of questions. I still remember to this day my father. So we had come from an area of Cleveland where, you know, you didn't leave the door open and all that. So when we got to this new neighborhood, there was something going on with the door where you close it and then the wind would blow it open.
And so my father would come home and find the door wide open and he would, like, go ballistic. He was like, you know, I keep telling you guys, close the door, you know, all of this. And so we were like, OK, you know, we're teenagers. And I was the youngest of five, so I was 12, but everybody else was older than me.
So this kept happening. And then one day I came home and my father was pretty upset and I was asking him about what happened. And turns out there was a police officer who saw him going into the house when the door opened.
And so he followed them in there. And that I don't know what happened. And he didn't tell me what happened because I was 12, but it just really shook me and I and I never did that again. I always, always made sure that the door was closed and they would check it. And he didn't have to ask me another time.
Yeah. What a crazy thing to have to be on your mind that you're paying attention to.
What was the explanation? Would you ever ask Dad? Like, why the fuck did we move from there to here? What, what, what? Why are we here? Because it kind of reminds me of my mom marrying men and after, like, three months at the new house to be like, wait, wait, why are we here?
What did what are we getting out of this?
It's so funny. I did wonder that. But, you know, especially in that day and age, you didn't really question your parents that much about it. And so they made a decision and we had to follow up. They had lots of conversations about it. And I think they thought that it would be better for us in lots of ways, especially in terms of our education and so forth, because Beachwood had a tremendous, you know, wonderful school system.
And so I'm guessing that is what it was. But they weren't inviting us into the conversation about where we were going and all that.
Yeah. And then my mom, too, she was climbing this economic ladder my whole childhood, and she was great at it. She started as a janitor on the midnight shift at GM and she worked her way up. So we we moved a bunch, but it was very obvious. We were just always trying to get to the next better place, you know? And I assume that would be a justifiable explanation from your father as well, which is like we're climbing the ladder, right?
Yeah, I think that's true. You know, there is research on that, too, by Raj Chetty looking at not just how you climb the ladder, but when you do. And so it turns out that if you don't move by the time your child is 12 years old or so, they don't really get the real benefit out of that education or they're better school system and so forth. So I was exactly at that age when we moved in, I did benefit in a big way.
Now, did your older brothers have a harder time with that? Maybe didn't benefit as much? I think so, yeah. Yeah.
OK, so you end up going to the University of Cincinnati and then you ended up going to Harvard and getting your master's in your Ph.D..
And now I am curious about this. How do you distinguish social psychology from sociology? What how do those things differ?
Well, it's just a unit of analysis that differs. But a lot of the topics are similar as so sociologists and social psychologists, they are interested in social inequality or racial inequality in particular. But we go about it in different ways, like sociologists are more likely to look at institutions and, you know, in systems and focus their attention, their social psychology straddle between the two. So we are looking at social institutions and so forth, but we're looking at how that affects the human mind.
So individual. Yeah. Yeah. So how does the social world have an impact on the behavior of of the individual?
So. You bump into, I guess, Ralph Richard Banks at Harvard or you somehow come into contact with him and you had been in elementary school with him. Yes, back in the the first childhood home. Yep. OK, so you guys bump into each other at Harvard and are you both like, look at us. We're both here.
I mean, was it some kind of kinship in that shared experience of going from A to Z?
Yeah, huge, huge kinship there, because it's like it's kind of cool to run into somebody who knew you when you were a little kid. Right. And so, yeah. It was so funny, though, because Rick remember me immediately and he said I hadn't changed very much, but I did not I did not remember him. I mean, I remembered who he was, but I couldn't recognize him at the time. You know, when we were little kids, we grew up doing the like the Black Power movement.
And everybody had afros and I had like an Afro puff that I would wear to school.
And sure, he had this big blowout.
And so when I met him again, you know, all that hair was gone. And so that's why I couldn't I didn't recognize him right away. Well, unfortunately, I do know that he's bald because of the story with your son.
That is unforthcoming. But, yeah.
So you guys you guys meet there and then do you fall in love there? You end up getting married, which I think is very romantic and wonderful. I mean, I got to imagine, like, you're also fish out of water in a pretty big way.
Right? That experience is a unique one, I'd imagine. And there must have been some comfort in having a similar experience there.
Yeah, for sure. For sure. I mean, I felt I mean, Harvard was a great experience in terms of the exposure to all these people and to, you know, just it was an amazing place. But I often felt like it wasn't you know, it wasn't a super welcoming place for me.
It was hard for me to get my footing there. I always felt like I just didn't have the same background as other people and didn't always have the same experiences that they had and so forth. So I was a little bit of a fish out of water to some degree. Yeah.
Did you try to fake it till you make it approach or did you own all those insecurities? Were you were you able to communicate those?
Yeah, I mean, I own them and it kind of set me on a path where I was constantly, like, looking for a home on campus. And so I would take classes in African-American studies and I would take classes in the Graduate School of Education. And I was always trying to figure out where I was going to stand or where I was going to like, sit within the discipline. And so so that was that was hard. Yeah.
Your post-doctoral research starts at the University of Massachusetts. Is that accurate? That's accurate. Yep.
OK, you'll find that a lot of stuff on the Internet is inaccurate. And I constantly have egg on my face because I'm like, oh, you're not married to an Olympics.
That's that's interesting how that get in there. But your first bit of research is on the topic of stereotyping and inter-group relationship.
And you specifically you start exploring this this term stereotype threat.
So as a postdoc, I did that. Yeah, but that was with Claude Steele and that was here at Stanford, actually. I was. And he wrote whistling Vivaldi.
Right? He did. And I like that. But I say he's a great person to I you know, he's still in the psychology department here at Stanford. So we're colleagues. Yeah.
We want to have him on, too. At some point you should he be great. You call them up, get them in the room.
Yeah. I mean, his work, it just took the field in a whole new direction in terms of our understanding of what it's like to be a target of bias up until clode, sort of one of the main ways that people looked at targets of stereotyping was because kind of look at how they're damaged by those stereotypes. So it was like the looking glass self kind of thing where you feel about yourself, the way society feels about you. So if you're in a group that stigmatized, you actually hold those same views of yourself.
And so I think Claude was one of the first social psychologist to think about how people contend with that threat. And it's not like they just contend with it by just buying into it and saying, oh, yeah, I guess I am what other people think I am. I am the sort of negative thing. Instead, he was, you know, thinking about, like, how do people deal with that is still preserve the self. Right. And so one way that they do do that is by disinvesting from areas that they are negatively stereotyped in.
And so so that's one strategy and another. But there are other strategies. There are other strategies that the whole Whistling Vivaldi book, the title of the. Comes from someone trying to fend off the stereotypes that people have of him is a black man walking down the street. And so it's about sort of trying to sort of figure out how you're not going to be a target of suspicion and how you're, you know, so how to how to protect yourself.
And you can use that tool and you could use your voice basically to protect yourself.
So Monica just said, because this is one of Monica's favorite books. Just quickly tell everyone what what his strategy was. Yes. So he was a graduate student, I think, at University of Chicago, maybe. And was walking. Wasn't Chicago, Ohio State, Ohio. Say thank you.
But he is married to an Olympian right now. Yeah.
And then he's walking down the street in college clothes, hoodies and regular college clothes and noticing people are taking a different route or moving across the street to walk and not walk by him purposefully. So then he started whistling Vivaldi and people stopped walking across the street because they were taking in, oh, this is someone educated. This is someone who not even educated, but like knows cultured culture was immersed in white culture. Right. So he's less of a threat.
Now, I have to imagine it would be fascinating for you to be studying this topic and how people internalize stereotypes then it must cause when you go home at night and lay in bed to start doing an inventory of your own experience and how maybe you've internalized those stereotypes. So I'm wondering, A, did you recognize that? And B, what were the specific things? You're like, oh my God, I've I've limited myself because I've bought into this.
I mean, this is relevant to the question you just asked about Claude Steele's work. I mean, why it was so revolutionary is because he was able to show that you can still be harmed by a stereotype without necessarily buying into it. Just the fact that you're contending with it can actually change your behavior. So he did these studies where he would give people a challenging test, a standardized test, and he would present that test as a diagnostic of intellectual ability.
And when he did that, you saw a gap between how black students and white students, how they would perform. Right. So the black students would perform less well, but then he would take that same test with the same problems on it and then present it as a test that was about creative problem solving skills and that it wasn't diagnostic of intellectual ability at all. And then there he found that the performance of black students would rise. Right. And so he was able to show that people were in the same situation right there, taking the same test, the same problems.
But African-Americans, because of that stereotype that's lurking out in the world, it can influence your ability to perform. And it could happen even when you don't completely internalize what's out there. It's just that the stereotype becomes relevant in that moment and you're contending with it and then your performance can plummet as a result.
Well, probably the most well understood and ubiquitous version of this right is the SAT. So if you're black, you're probably aware of this gap in the outcome of SAT scores. Did you give up quicker? Is that what happens? You go like I can't I shouldn't fight through this because I already know the outcome. What's the mechanics of it? Right.
So so sometimes it means giving up on it and you just decide you're going to put your energies into other things, that it's not worth the battle and you don't fight it. But other times when you actually care about the subject or you care about school or whatever it is, you're going to stay and you fight it. But in fighting it, that takes up a lot of energy. You're distracted because you're kind of using some of your energy to deal with the stereotype that's going on.
And so it affects your ability to perform so you don't have to buy into it. You just have to know that, OK, that stereotype is now relevant to what's happening here. And it's almost like a choking effect.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's all it's all mental, right. Yeah, mental but situational. Right. Is the situation that's triggering that kind of mental state. Yeah.
And then there's also there's a flip side of the coin, right. Where people can benefit from these stereotypes. Yep. Or have shown to benefit from what would be an example of that.
Not only embody some of her colleagues. Did this work at Tufts University where they were interested in the role that, you know, different social identities might play and stereotype threat. So they had Asian women take a math test and either they made Salyut their Asian identity just before the math test or they made salient their gender identity just before the math test. And they found that when they were thinking about themselves as women, the performance dipped when they were thinking about themselves as Asian, the performance rose.
And so so the same person. Right. But just how you're thinking about yourself in matters for like, you know, what's going to happen and how those stereotypes affect you.
OK, now you end up getting a job at Stanford.
Now, Monica and I are what we've labeled uni files, where it's a made up word at Harvard, but were disproportionately impressed with universities, even though neither of us attended one.
But of the ones of the elite ones, we find ourselves really liking Stanford the most because I really like it. Yeah, it feels like there's like some anarchist kind of creative rhythm to it.
In addition. Hippie vibe. Yeah, yeah. Were you thrilled to find yourself employed at Stanford?
Yes. You know, and just there is like an East Coast, West Coast kind of thing going on where when I was at Harvard, everything was steeped in tradition. Right. And you did certain things in certain ways because that's the way we've always done that kind of thing. And and then everything was like steeped in history and all of that. But on the West Coast and especially in Silicon Valley where Stanford sits, everything is forward looking, you know.
So it's all about innovation, right? It's all about sort of how big you can dream. So you get to a place like this and it just feels like liberating. And it's exciting because you can have these ideas and then find support for those ideas. And nobody's saying, well, you can't do that.
And then even there is like a little subtle thing that you might might blow past you is just. Yeah. In a school that is revering its history. And then as a black student, you're recognizing, well, I'm not a part of that history at all.
Yeah, that's just one more little subtle thing. Like I'm at a place that just worships this dense history and we're not represented in that history.
So I can't really celebrate this school in the fashion that maybe other people are.
Yeah, that's right. That's right. OK, so at Stanford, you become a co-founder of Spark, which is social, psychological answer to real world questions.
And through this work, you kind of illustrate the consequences of racial associations in criminal justice, education and business. And this, I imagine, is where you're launching into what becomes your really profound work and most of your big contributions to this field. So implicit bias.
This is the area I want to spend a lot of time in, because I think the reason it's dicey is that it runs the risk of sounding like an excuse. But but I want to be very clear. It's not an excuse. I think it's relevant to recognize your biological biases so that we can control for them or transcend them.
But I think first we have to recognize them. A lot of your work deals with some of the biological components of bias and that we are kind of as a species, right.
We're engineered to recognize in group. Right. We're engineered to also recognize outgroup.
And that becomes a fundamental issue. We we have.
So could you tell us about I like how you described it as a distorting lens made up of biological and societal things that give us these biases. And so you hook people up to fMRI and you showed them pictures of their own race and what happened?
Yeah, so we had both black and white study participants in the scanner.
We showed them images of people who faces basically of people who are black and people who are white. And we looked at how their brains responded to those faces. And we found for both black and white study participants that there was more activation in this area called the fusiform face area of the brain. So this is this area that is implicated in, you know, sort of face processing or face identification, basically. So it was one of the first neural imaging studies to look at how how the brain was responding to faces of the same race or faces of different races.
So there's a way in which there's a biological component to it. But that doesn't mean that it's hardwired. Right. We're kind of getting that response because of who we're exposed to, how the world is structured. This is an example of race as a social construct, having a real effect on how our brains are operating.
Yet because no one's doing any processing, they're not thinking through anything. Right. They're seeing an image and you're seeing activity. So we know that there's like no one steering that. It's just it's kind of happening.
Right. So was there more activity when it matched your race? That's race for both.
For both black and. Yeah, we think it generalizes, but we only looked at black and white participants here and we found outside the scanner, you know, that activation in the brain correlated with their ability to remember those faces later. So if you saw, like, a big difference in the brain between remembering seeing race faces and faces of other races, we also found that those same participants were less good at recognizing those faces are picking out the faces that they saw in the scanner versus those they didn't see.
So it's related that this neurological thing that we found in the brain is actually related to a real behavior outside the scanner.
And also, I just want to throw into this conversation that one of the very predominant theories on why Homo sapiens sapiens as a primate became so intelligent is the fact that we live in these multimember groups. It takes a lot of computing power to recognize faces and to be able to memorize everyone's face and whose Alphonsus Gammer, all the stuff we commit a lot of energy and a lot of computing power to that because we're so social.
So there's just a lot happening in that in that area.
Yeah, it's a lot happening and categorization is a big part of it. So I mean, you need to categorize people into in groups or outgroups in what have you. And so these categories help us to make sense of the world and to try to exert some kind of coherence and control over the stimuli that we're bombarded with all the time. And that's true not just for people, but we have categories for cars and furniture and just everything. Right. And that's how our brains function is through this categorization.
But that categorization and the bias that that categorization cedes, that allows our brains to make these judgments quickly and accurately and so forth by doing that, by making these split second decisions and by categorizing in this way, they extract this heavy toll on us. Right. Because now we can't distinguish that. That was my issue. Right. When I went to Beachwood and I was at the school, I just saw white faces, one white face, another white face, another white face.
Like I just had that broad category. Yeah. It wasn't individual. It was not in the group as a whole every time you looked at an individual.
Yeah, that's right. And it just took me some time to figure out how to how do I see them. Right. And so so any stereotypes that I had about that group that could get triggered just from the categorization.
So it wasn't until my brain kind of caught up to this new experience that I was having and I was eager to figure out what to do that I you know, I could really see them as individuals and to make it really, really elementary and just pointing out the utility of it, which is let's say you only met black folks, the first white guy you meet, he immediately burned your hand with a lighter. You know, odds are the next time you see a white guy, you're going to be a little hesitant because you're one experience with this group.
Now that you've categorized as one thing, you're going to have some fear associated with animals that sting or you name it.
That's the function of it originally. Yeah. And so you couldn't tell that, OK, it was John who burned my hand was just this guy, you know, in this category. Who did that. Yeah. So our brain can take us down roads that are sort of ineffective and harmful and sort of have these categories because they help us to see the world. But in a way, they're the same things that blind us to that world. Yeah.
And did you have anyone in your study that was, you know, say, Jennifer, had you only lived in Beachwood? Did you have any studies of, like a white person that had grown up with primarily black folks or vice versa? And did it change the outcome of that MRI to support the kind of nurture side of it?
So this was a long time ago. I have to think back all of that. But, yeah, I mean, I think generally African-Americans are better at recognizing white faces than white Americans are at recognizing black faces. And that has to do with the exposure thing and just the fact that, you know, African-Americans are a minority in this country. And, you know, as I got older, I was out in the world and I had lots of interactions with people outside my own group.
And so I I developed an ability to do that. But I think for people who are more in the majority, there's less of maybe less incentive to do that and also less incentive because of racial segregation. Like maybe you don't even come in contact with people of other races as much. And so you don't get the practice and then it starts to shape your brain. So this is really interesting to me, because what we're talking about is like how the brain is affected by history and policy and how we live.
Right. I mean, we we live in segregated spaces because of the policies that we're. Enacted a historically, yeah, but those policies actually shape our brains, they're shaping the firing of our neurons. So it's not just that they shape our experience. Those policies shape who we are.
Right. Right. Yeah. The architecture of the brain shifts and there's so many factors. Right. So you have the power dynamic. The white group is the hegemonic group in the country. So you're incentivized to understand them. Right, because they have the keys to your opportunity. That's right. Then you have the exposure. So on TV, it's all growing up when you grew up and less so when I grew up and less so now. But certainly predominantly 90 percent of your media is going to be all white.
So you have some, again, more experience.
And I think this is where there's a real minefield because and we were just talking to Ibrahim about this. If you're a white boy in the suburbs and you have no black friends in your exposure to black folks are primarily through the sports that you watch and then maybe the music you listen to and then pornography you're watching at night. This is selected for like maybe the least representative group. For the group, right? And I think this like underlying white male fear of black males, that's in the recipe there is like your only experience with black folks is the best athletes in the world this kind of hypermasculinity and then hip hop music kind of hypermasculinity and then pornography, which is selected to be hypermasculine there, and the news which is selected rightly it, which is criminality, criminality.
There's this yeah.
There's this emasculating fear accruing for a white kid with no exposure other than that.
Right. So, yes, I think any time, you know, as we're talking about how stereotyping works is we're talking about how bias works. We have to talk about what is out there that's feeding our minds. Right. We have to talk about the racial disparities that are out there. We have to talk about fears that, you know, develop from those racial disparities. So it's really not just about like who we are as human beings. And this is why we have bias.
It's the world that we live in and the input into our brains.
Stay tuned for more armchair expert, if you dare.
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Check them out. Now, one of your more alarming studies was in 2006, you examined the database in Philadelphia and the likelihood of being sentenced to death is related to the defendant looking stereotypically black.
So you list thick lips, dark skin, dark hair, broad noses when the victim was either black or white and those who were stereotypically black were sentenced to death fifty seven point five percent of the time, compared to twenty four point four percent of the time for lighter.
African-Americans, though, not even white, just within.
Right. I guess that's kind of colorism.
Yeah, you could call it that. But so we use the word stereotypical. It's because it encompasses color, but also facial features and hair texture and all of that. So, yeah, it's not just whether you're black or white, but it's how black you are. The more stereotypically black you are. Right. It doubles your chances of receiving a death sentence. That's what we found.
And then you also it reminds me of another story you did, which is really profound. And that's why participants were split into two groups in group one. They watched a video clip in which twenty five percent of the images were of black inmates and in group to forty five percent of the images were of black inmates.
And they were then informed of strict criminal laws abiding in the state of California, followed by a petition formed to amend the laws and make them less harsh for Group one. So the ones that had only seen twenty five percent, 50 percent of them signed the petition was only twenty eight percent of the people in Group two signed it.
And that's not even a huge difference in the images you showed them.
I mean, that's pretty crazy. That's crazy, right? Yeah, because you might think, you know, like oftentimes people believe, OK, you have these racial disparities in the criminal justice system. And the bigger those racial disparities are, the more concern people would be that maybe something is wrong with the system. What's going on? So this is the logic here. And I think a lot of people who are activists in the criminal justice space, they want to give people this information in this data about what's happening because they're alarmed by it.
Right. They're alarmed by the racial disparities in incarceration and so forth. But not everyone is right. I mean, so some people take those disparities and feel like it just sort of reaffirms this belief or this stereotype, this understanding they had of who black people are. So therefore, they are less likely to sign a petition to make that law less punitive. And so that was the case for three strikes, the three strikes law we have here in California.
And then we also did a follow up study on this in New York City, where we were looking at stop, question and frisk. And it was the same kind of effect. The more extreme the racial disparities were, the more punitive people were, the more it was that they wanted to see more aggressive policing, enforcement strategies and so forth.
That was a surprise. Someone's at home going, well, hold on, though. Oh, well, black folks are committing more crimes. So this disparaging the incarceration rate is explained in their minds by the rate of crime being committed. Right. We can break that apart individually. But before we even do that, this is saying all things are equal. When a black suspect gets to court, they're going to be convicted at a much higher rate with equal evidence.
Right. There's a lot of data on that. They're going to get convicted easier than a white person. They're going to get a worse sentence than a white person, statistically. And the children you did working with the juvenile courts and studied how quickly white jurors are to see juvenile black defendant as an adult, whereas they'll dismiss juvenile white defendant as like youthful mischievousness.
So there's this this propensity for white folks to make black children older than they are. Right. Or more sexual. And then so you have these results that are they're pretty undeniable. Right. Statistically, it's pretty black and white that it's not fair once you enter the system, just passing out the crime rate aspect for a second. It's much different. Right. Right.
To that that acknowledging that there's a disparity, you know, in the crime rate shouldn't make you less concerned about bias. Right. It should make you more concerned about bias because disparities are going to strengthen the association, you know, that people have between race and crime. And so that can lead you to make decisions, right. That rely on that association rather than that individual suspect's behaviors. And it could also lead you to be less empathetic, right.
To people who simply look like the minority of people who are committing crime. And so, you know, I get that question. A lot, especially in policing spaces, right, and so I always tell them, like, if there are crime disparities in your city that doesn't give you a pass on bias.
Instead, it makes you all the more vulnerable to bias, right? Yes. Yes.
You have to police yourself even more knowing that. And then just I want to defend a couple of things. Which one is? What is crime, what how are we defining crime and we know that the powdered variety of cocaine that white people were predominantly using had a much different penalty buying crack cocaine, which was inextricably linked to the black community. So it's right. We're defining crime differently. Do you know, Dad, how closely linked is it socioeconomically so if you look at white communities that have a similar household income, I have to imagine those communities are committing more crime as just desperation leads to crime in general and lack of opportunity leads to crime.
So are they comparable? Those numbers?
But they're not comparable, partly because they don't live in concentrated poverty. And so even, you know, white families who are poor, they tend not to live in areas where all their neighbors are poor, too. And so but African-Americans are more likely to live in those situations. Yeah, those poor white folk, we're kind of spread out a little bit. Yeah, they were in my town. So I want to get into the story of your son because it's so profound.
I think it has to be very informative in the work you've done because you've let a lot of implicit bias or unconscious bias workshops for police departments.
And I think this experience with your son is just very profound. So you tell us about that.
OK, so we're on an airplane and he's five. And my son, he's just so excited, right, about being on this airplane with Mommy. And he is looking all around and he is checking everybody out and he's checking everything out. And then he sees this man and he points at him and he says, hey, that guy looks like daddy. And so I look at the guy and he doesn't look anything at all like my husband, like nothing at all, right, so good.
I start looking around the plate and I noticed that this guy was the only black man on the plane.
And I thought, all right. I'm going to have to have a little talk with my son about how not all black people look alike. There's a couple of hilarious points in that, which is your your husband is bald and this guy had really long dreadlocks.
Right. Right. Right, right, right. Right. Much different height. Different everything. Yeah, everything. So I decided I was going to give it a shot because, you know, kids see the world in a different way from adults. And so I thought, well, maybe he's seeing something right there, some resemblance there that I can't get. And so I looked at his height and his weight and his skin color and his facial features.
And I looked at his hair and he did he had long dreadlocks flowing down his back. And my husband shaved his head. And I'm like, all right. So I turned to my son and I'm like, OK, you're going to get the talk. So I'm already give him the talk about how not all black people look alike. Right. And so before I could say anything, my son, he looks up at me and he says, I hope he doesn't rob the plane.
No, I said, what? I said, what did you say? He says, Well, I hope that man doesn't blow up the plane.
And I say, why would you say that? You know, Daddy wouldn't rob a plane? And he said, Yeah, yeah, I know. And I said, well, why would you say that? And he hit me with this really sad face. And he said. I don't know why I said that. I don't know why I was thinking that, you know, but there being this severe racial stratification that even a five year old can tell us what's supposed to happen next.
And that's I mean, what would you say you're leading causality for? That is television.
People always point to television right away, right? Oh, is the media exposure and all that. But I don't know. He's five. He actually wasn't looking at that much TV, frankly. And of course, the media that plays a role here. But I think that we're so quick to point to the media because we don't want to look at ourselves. And that part of it bothers me because they're not just picking up things from television. They are picking up all of this from the signals we we deliver to them, you know, even though we don't intend to or even when we don't intend to have another son.
When he was in the first grade, he came to me and he said to me, he said, Mommy, do you think people kind of have a different feeling about black people than they do other people? And and I said, well, you know, what do you mean? He says, I don't know. I just feel that there's something different there and how people look at black people to ask them to give me an example. He thought about it and he said, well, remember, we were in the grocery store the other day and there was a black man who came in.
So this is a grocery store in a mostly white neighborhood. There's a black man came in. He says, I noticed that people kind of stayed away from him a little bit and he was really into Star Wars. Then he was saying it was like he had a giant force field around him. And so people were like staying away. And then he said when this man got into the line, he said his was the shortest line because people weren't getting in line behind him.
And so he had picked all of this up, you know, and I'm just shopping and all, you know. And I did notice the man coming in the store, but I didn't I didn't pick any of that up. Right. Yeah. And then part of it is just I'm used to it, you know, I think white noise now, right?
It's just it's all in the background. It is.
It is. And so and then I asked them, what do you think it means? Why did they do that? And he thought about it. He said, I don't know. He says, I think it's fear. And I thought, wow, yeah.
A first grader can get to that not by watching TV, but just by watching how we move through the world and how people react to us as we do.
Yeah, it's such a humongous motivator for people fear, right? I mean, it's got to be the strongest yet.
OK, so this the story about your son brings up a question I've been wanting to ask someone who actually knows this topic and not just my armchair expert theories on stuff, but I think a lot of people would imagine that if a police force was made up entirely of black officers, that that would ensure that there'd be no more racism. But I I can't imagine that's true. Right. Because of so many factors, a what you just said, which is you're internalizing that even if you are black.
And then secondly, I think the in group out group dynamic of joining the police and then that being your ultimate ingroup, I feel like that can supersede your other group identity, perhaps. Right.
So would it cure everything to have all black officers or would we have a slightly less issues or would it be dramatically different? What do you think?
That's hard to answer because there hasn't been a whole lot of research on it. People often will say, you know, when there are problems, when there's a lot of conflict between community members of color and the police, that you need to hire more black officers. But there's not a lot of data on it to actually track it, to see if that's effective, to see if that is causally related to fewer officer involved shootings and fewer stops and fewer, you know, all of this fewer racial disparities.
And so we don't really know. The other thing about that is there's a way in which police departments have their own culture. You know, they have their own policies and practices and so forth. And so I think you have to get at the root of that, not just sort of changing who the people are, because people can come in to the police department, not really even have a lot of bias, but then they develop that bias from the work that they do and the kinds of interactions they have and so forth.
I've never forget I met a man once who was from Germany and he came to the US and just got a job at a police department. He wasn't even aware of all the racial dynamics in the US and kind of how that would play out and so forth. But he was policing in an area that was pretty diverse area and pretty quickly he said he could feel his mind shifting.
And he would start to feel fear when, you know, there was a black man and he couldn't see that man's hands and he wanted to know where his hands were, and he's looking around to make sure he didn't have a gun and, you know, all of that. And and he said he developed it and it was almost became like an automatic sort of triggering kind of thing because of the work that he was doing. So I think this dream of changing the people, but not changing the institution and then also not addressing the racial disparities, I think you'll start to have some of the the same kinds of problems that we have now, frankly.
Well, and we already touched on it a little bit, but we're such social animals that we do adopt whatever culture we find ourselves in, even if we're kind of unaware of it. Right. The power of the group.
And again, all of our hard wiring makes us want to stay in line with that group. And so, yeah, the culture could override the individual pretty quickly, I would imagine. Right.
The culture, the social norms of that culture. Right. If you're in a world where you don't have strong egalitarian values, even if you hold those values yourself as an individual, you start to shift, you start to move in line with what's going on around you.
We're social beings, so situational conditions can either trigger bias or it can muffle it.
And when you teach these bias workshops with the police, what are you telling them to do? Because I think it would probably be useful for all of us to have some checks and balances in our head. I think all of us could use some tools in making sure we're fighting back against that implicit bias.
So what are some of the tips you give police that we could all benefit from?
Yeah, I mean, so we know as social psychologists a lot about the sort of situational triggers of bias. So we know when you're forced to make split second decisions. So you have to respond quickly. That sort of elevates the possibility that you're going to respond with bias. We know that when you have subjective standards that you're using to evaluate other people, that that's more likely to lead to bias decision making than if you're evaluating others with more objective standards.
Can you give us a concrete example of that? Let me yeah, let me step back and just give you an example so I and a number of my colleagues at Stanford, we started working with the police department here in Oakland, California. We were working with them on various reform efforts. And the task at hand was to help them to make fewer stops of people who were not committing any serious crimes. This was an issue where you get pulled over huge racial disparities and who gets pulled over.
But then, you know, there's no, like, real safety violation, really. It would be more you get pulled over because of, you know, you had a license plate light that was out in that kind of thing. And sometimes those kinds of stops, they call them pretextual stops or equipment stops those kinds of stops, huge racial disparities there. And who was getting pulled over because they were pulling people over to kind of check them out to see what they were up to.
So there was a suspicion there, right, that you don't have as much with white drivers. So what we did was to sort of introduce a question on the form that officers complete when they're making these kinds of stops. And that question was, is this that intelligence led, yes or no? In other words, did I have prior information, prior intelligence to tie that particular person to a specific crime?
OK, so they now have to ask themselves this question. And, you know, it's kind of a mandatory question, right? So what happens when they ask that question is first you slow down, right. And you're thinking like, well, why am I considering pulling this person over? Right. So it causes you to change your mindset. Not only do you slow down, but you're now forced to use evidence of wrongdoing. So more objective standards, you're evaluating people by rather than your intuition about lives up to no good.
Yeah, because you you always hear like cops seem like they got to trust their instincts and listen to their intuition.
I'm not a cop. I'm very sympathetic to what a gnarly job that is. But I have to imagine they're right. I don't know what the percentages, but certainly they're probably right. Their intuitions probably save them at some point. Yet so often it's not it's got must be a hard thing to navigate, but to listen to your spidey senses and when to recognize it's just this bias. Right.
Right. And so what we did is just help them to slow down and to sort of use these objective standards and developed a metric in order to do that. And we found that in 2017 before we added that question to the form, officers made about thirty two thousand stops around the city, but with the added. Version of that question. That next year that dropped to nineteen thousand steps and we did the crime rate go up?
No, it didn't go. There we go. We need to hear that part. Yep. So and so. African-American stops alone, fell by over forty three percent and the crime rate did not go up. In fact, the city became more safe for everyone. Right. So. So and that was a big thing. They thought the crime rate would go up if they stopped fewer people, but it turned out it didn't.
Oh wow. OK, that's really important data to have out there. Different parts of your brain do different thinking, right? So thin slicing, panicked in the moment. That's kind of midbrain, reptilian, right. Heart rate up. That's not where you do your best thinking, your final lobes, where you do all your best thinking. Right. So you're kind of you've given them a trick to almost force their thinking into that frontal lobe a bit.
Is that kind of the mechanics of what's happening?
Yep. Yep, that's right. That's right. The slowing down does that, you know, sort of adding that accountability. The other thing is that the police department incentivize these kinds of stops, these intelligence led stops. And so those were the stops that you want more of. So that shift is the norm, you know, in the space where, OK, this is what I'm going for.
Yeah, like a quality approach, not a quantity approach.
Exactly. Exactly. So that's what happened. They also weren't solving any more crime by pulling all these people. So that's what they realized, this intuition. But but it wasn't leading to anything. It was that bearing fruit for them.
Well, I was going to ask if you found that these bias training sessions are effective. And it sounds like at least with the Oakland police, it was it was hugely effective. It that's a radical change in the number of people they're interacting with.
What's different, understanding what situations produce bias in what situations can tamp it down versus just informing people of that. So if I were to just go in and just let them know about bias, I don't think that that's enough. Like, you actually have to change the conditions under which bias is most likely. So that's what we were trying to do here.
Yeah. And you have to give someone a tool kit. Right. And action to take because you can't just think your way into thinking differently. It doesn't really work that right. Exactly. Something practical that you can do to help. Yeah.
You know, the other thing they did this was before our research team got there, but they changed their foot pursuit policy in a manner that would decrease bias as well. So they used to have a foot pursuit policy where they could just, you know, chase the suspect anywhere that suspect went. So if the suspect went into a dark alley, you chase them there. If you lost sight of a kid chasing, if they went into a dark sort of enclosed space, like a backyard or something, you just chased them right in there.
So they changed the foot pursuit policy so that if you lost sight of a suspect, you had to step back. You couldn't go in and continue the chase do would step back and set up a perimeter and then that would give you time to think about what you're doing. It would give you time to think about what resources you had to address the problem.
And you're probably reducing adrenaline and cortisol and all these things.
Yeah, exactly. So they found that before they changed the foot pursuit policy. I think they had eight or nine officer involved shootings a year. But with the change in policy, they had fewer than that in over five years. Right. Wow.
So it's a huge, huge difference. And and it's not just a difference for the community members safety, but even the officers safety. So officers injuries went down by over seventy five percent by that simple change in policy. Wow.
Yeah, we saw them do that in L.A. with the police pursuits. They rightly recognized, like they're endangering so many people.
Just let them go to wherever they're going. You got a helicopter. Yeah. Disengage from the rental and spike diversion of the interaction.
And when you do that, you're less likely to act on bias. Right, because you're not fearful, you're not threatened. You're not where you have to make the split second decision, all of that removed. And so you're less likely to act on bias.
I think one of the things this topic suffers from is the crime rate has dropped right into that drop for thirty years precipitously. And there's a lot of different people trying to explain why that's happened. Right. And there's probably no true consensus and it's probably a multitude of factors. Even you had the Freakonomics guys attribute it to Roe v. Wade, right? You have all these different explanations for it. But one thing I'm I'm sympathetic to is so often they know that I don't know.
Let's arbitrarily 50 percent of the crime in any given city is happening on these five blocks. They're like, well, half the crime is just happening in these five blocks. So we should police these five blocks a lot. And the conventional wisdom is. So the. More often you stop people, the more you can interact, the more you might find a gun, you can take that off the street. There's a little chicken and the egg thing going on.
And I don't know who goes first. And I don't know, maybe we can do them all simultaneously. But clearly, we know the cause of crime or one of the big contributing factors, right.
Is this loss of opportunity, the education level, the health rate, all these things are contributing factors. And we most certainly have to be addressing those and cleaning those up. But I can see where those areas with high crime have to be policed. The people that are not committing crimes must be protected, all these things. So what are your thoughts on that kind of pickle? Yeah, that's that's a great question. And I think one of the reasons that Intel led intervention, if you will, work just because they actually had other better crime fighting tools to work with.
And it wasn't simply policing by area because I mean, because that has its own problems. Right. Even in high crime areas, you know, the majority of people are not out there committing crime.
And so, yeah, above 90 percent are not committing crime. Yeah, the vast majority. And so then why would you have it be space based? Because then you're harming all of these other people who just happen to live in that space. And so what you want to do is like focus on people who are actively engaged in violent crime. And so that's what Oakland has done through their cease fire program. So they focus on people who are actively engaged in crime, but they do it in a way where you're not simply removing and arresting them, but you're actually trying to work with them.
You're trying to reach out to them and sort of take them away from that. Gang activity is normally for. They're in handcuffs.
Yeah. So you give them an out. And then when you do that, other people in that gang and you know, people around them know they're the subject of focus right. By the police. And so they let that person go in a way. And so then it frees them up to have the opportunity to make other decisions. And so they bring people who can help with various needs that the person might have. You know, maybe it's an issue of not feeling they're able to find employment, especially when the unemployment rate was pretty high.
And still it's double double for black young males as it is for white, right? Yeah, right. So so then they would help them with that or they would help you also. They would give them the support that they needed to actually get out of that hole. The cycle cycle. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
And I guess it's a hard thing in general in our country we have a hard time adopting prevention policies, right. Yeah. Because they're kind of theoretical. They're not proven yet. And you're asking people to make kind of a leap of faith. And I think so many of our problems, race being among many, that we tend not to put any resources into prevention, but law enforcement's very costly. I think in L.A., I think we read is it six billion dollars, the budget maybe for LAPD?
We know that the reaction side of the equation is quite costly. Right. And we don't seem to have a huge appetite to experiment and try some preventative measures.
But I have to assume, like most preventative measures, they're way cheaper at the end.
Yeah, I agree. Is there a department that is a model department that people should be kind of stealing their playbook? Is Oakland a model department now or are there any model departments?
It's hard to say. As soon as you say there's a model department, something happens. Yeah. And then they're not so much anymore. But I mean, but they're departments out there. They're doing good things. And, you know, they have all kinds of reforms that they're trying. And one of the departments that people point to a lot, especially recently, is Camden in New Jersey. So they basically kind of just fired everybody and started over from the ground up and they developed a whole sense of what they should be doing and what policing was about that was different from what they were doing before.
So less so the sort of warrior mentality, more so you know, that you're a servant of the people. And so it's a lot more community oriented and so forth. And so there are strategies that work. There's there's a lot of work on procedural justice right now. A lot of departments have those kinds of trainings, whether it's the same idea where you're trying to shift your focus on not just fighting crime, but also developing a real relationship with the public, with the community that you serve.
And you can do that at the level of the interaction, right. You can do that when you stop someone you know, you can listen to their voice, make sure give them time to sort of tell their story that you can, you know, treat them with respect. So so there are all these kind of rules of thumb, you know, that officers in police departments across the country are learning about how you build trust with the public rather than.
Eroding that trust because you've interfaced so much with police departments in your work, I have to imagine you have a sense of that culture more than the rest of us. And being black, I have to imagine this this movement is very important to you. And yet I bet you've had access and personal experiences that are unique on the police side. So what can you tell us about having witnessed both perspectives? I would imagine both sides of the equation could use some help.
Yes, for sure. There are not enough reforms that involve bringing police and community together. Oftentimes, even like the trainings that I mentioned, like the procedural justice training, there's implicit bias training. There are all kinds of trainings out there that police departments are trying in an effort to reform. But more often than not, they're training the police. They're not actually involving the community directly in those exercises. And I feel like that's important. It's important for community members to even know that those changes are happening, but also important for them to bring the community members like into the the space.
Maybe they have ideas about what they should be doing. Maybe they have ideas about what kind of policing actually, you know, feels just to us and so forth. So as police departments are creating practices and policies and so forth to actually know what that feels like to be the target of that, that practice or that policy is important information to have. And police departments don't always have it because there's no, like, real mechanisms for that. So, yeah, I think that's that's an issue for sure.
And I think when you don't know how police departments work from the inside and you don't know what reforms are working, you know, then all you see is sort of officer involved shootings or these things that the world sees. And I feel like what we want to do is to take actions that are evidence based and to embrace strategies that we know will work. And, you know, sometimes what you think is going to work isn't always the thing that really works.
I'll give you an example of that with the implicit bias trainings. So a lot of people call for those trainings to happen. It's important.
And so the police departments want to show that they're responsive to community members and then they also want to be able to check that box to say that they've done that thing. If you just offer the training, that's easy. But if you have to evaluate the training, that's different because you don't know whether that training is actually going to move the needle in the way that you want or not. And you only get credit for it if it's effective. And so these trainings have been going on for years now and rarely are they evaluated.
And again, this is going to be dangerous to bring up because I don't want to sound like an all lives matter thing, but I do see parallels. So we're recognizing we have these bias.
We recognize we're not treating black folks as individuals and that we're treating them as this group stereotype.
Right. And I just am now fearful that the response to it is to basically apply that same lens to police, that police are a thing, the individuals sharing the group.
Yeah, that makes a lot of sense.
And it's probably it's not the time to feel bad for cops, but I'm just I get nervous of just the kind of fruitless endeavor of seeing all these people are this way and blah, blah, blah.
But just to add in, it's not that people are saying all these cops individually are bad. It's that this system is bad, that there's police unions and all of these issues that cause the system to be corrupt. And that's what needs addressing, not the people. I mean, you can try to address the people specifically, but that's not really the issue.
Yeah, the systems are like, yeah, you're right. It's a great distinction and it is a great distinction. And I think that's what people are calling for. And I think people should call for change in that way. Yeah, but I would like that approach to be evidence based. I guess that's my main point, is that you can call for change, but you can't just assume that a particular change is going to work because it's intuitive. You need to actually measure that.
You know, you need to actually sort of figure out ways to really understand what's going to move the needle. And that's not happening enough.
Yeah. OK, the last thing I want to ask you, first of all, I love you. I'm so grateful for your time. So fun talking to you.
We hear sometimes about this, and I think it's it's really profound when you can hear someone who's personally done it. But so you you mentioned your five year old son. Is it ever is that his name? Yes. You've certainly had to give him the speech. Right. As a parent of a young black male, you must have given him the speech.
And what is the speech? How does it go?
And, you know, just imagine that you'd have to give your child this speech.
It's interesting because I was interviewing him for my book as I was writing a book and just talking to him about his experience and so forth. And he started to tell me about how he had gone to this outdoor concert at one point with a friend of his who was South Asian. And I think that friend's cousin. And so, you know, it's kind of close to home that 30 minutes, 20 minutes away, something like that. And so they decided after the concert they were going to get an Uber back.
So they got an Uber. And my son, you know, was sitting in the front seat with this Uber driver who was driving recklessly like so he was driving really fast. And my son said it was just, you know, it was like really scary, like he wasn't know observing any rules of the road.
Right. And he was on the highway and he was just like speeding. And then my son was saying he was really worried, but he wasn't worried as much about the speed as he was about what would happen if a police officer stopped them. And I thought, wow, you felt more safe going, you know, at that speed than you would, you know? And he said, yes. So that's when we had the talk. And I said, well, what do you think would have happened?
He kept saying, well, I didn't want to get detained. And I said, what does that mean?
He said, well, he didn't want to end up in handcuffs. And so he just thought, like, the whole thing could have gotten out of hand. And then also he's the only black guy in the car.
So he was just had this whole thing running in his mind about what am I going to do? What am I going to do? He wanted the guy to slow down so he did not have to confront the police officer would be exposed to anything that that officer, you know, had to give. So that's the point. We had to talk.
If I were the parent of a young black male, I would feel so conflicted because part of me that's fearful for their safety would be telling the man, when that cop comes, you put your hands on the wheel like I'd be walking them through the playbook.
Right. Basically how to surrender and at the same time going, well, this isn't fair at all. I can't believe I have to pass this on yet. I'm fearful. And it just must be very complicated because I guess I have daughters. So I think a lot about female male roles and and I'm conflicted with this. Be aware. Be safe. Also, it's not your job to worry about if you're dressed that you're inviting rape. So it's very complex.
And I don't want to instill a sense of victimhood, but I want to instill a sense of awareness in safety. So I have to imagine it's just compounded that many times over for you and the things you must wrestle with. What advice to give? Yeah, you're right.
It's hard. I mean, as a black mother, it's really hard to to say to your sixteen year old. I mean, this is. You know, your child, that these are the things you have to do to stay safe, and it's because you're African-American, I mean, it's it's not just general rules that everybody follows and everybody is treated the same way. And you do feel conflicted in the sense that in having the top, you're adding to the injury in some way like.
Right. But but but at the same time, you know, I want my child to live, you know, I want him to come home safe. And so so black women across the country have that talk because of that. That takes precedent. It's one of those things that you can't avoid, especially for me, knowing all that. I know the work that I do and so forth. I know that cops are looking at your hands.
And if they can't see your hands, they get really nervous. Right? They want to see your hands. And I know that they get nervous when you start moving.
I guess a component of your parenting would have to be letting him know when it's time to stand up and fight as hard as you can. And then what situation?
You don't have that luxury. You don't have that privilege. So there's going to be times where I want you engaged in the fight it and then there's times I want you to acquiesce, which is a hard thing to have to tell your your young son, I'm sure.
Yeah. You know, the day before I graduated from Harvard, I got arrested.
Really? Yeah. Grand Theft Auto.
That was, you know, what I did. My expired registration was expired like six weeks overdue. And I didn't have the sticker on there saying I had. Well, good.
I'm glad they got you off the street. I can't imagine if I had to drive next to an unregistered motorist, I would be terrified.
But it was that situation where I felt like I didn't want to acquiesce.
I mean, just the way he spoke to us, I mean, it was so, so disrespectful. I have never been disrespected like that before in my life. And I'm like, you know what? I was really tired. My friend and I were driving together and and we were both tired. We've been like up all night. We had a little catering business going on when we were in graduate school. So we were like like making food and all this.
And the next day we had to go and serve it. So we were coming back. This was in the afternoon from this catering gig and we had been up the whole night. And this guy comes and he's like, you know, hassling us and talking to us like we were nothing.
Well, you get the double whammy. You get the black and the female. So the misogyny, too, is that probably in the stew?
So there is that. But I thought my gender was going to protect me because you weren't threatening. Yeah, I thought you can't see me here, but I'm five three. Then I weighed one hundred and five pounds. I didn't see myself as a threat and I just it didn't occur to me that they would see me as a threat. And I thought I could sit there and, you know, protest. Yes. And that's what I did.
Well, you know, I hear the audio. I'm embarrassed. I've forgotten her name. But it's a chapter of the Malcolm Gladwell book. Sandra Bland. Sandra Bland. Yeah. I listen to that audio and I'm like, this is heartbreaking because this is what I want my daughter to say to that officer. Yeah. Like, you do not have the right to do this.
You're completely out of line. I don't accept this. And so that's what I think would be so heartbreaking, is to have to teach my kid to just take it on the chin. Yeah. And pick another day battle.
Yeah. And I just wasn't having it that day. I'm like, OK, I said no, I said I'm not getting out of the car. I'm sitting right here. So he called for backup and I'm telling you, another cruiser came and then another one, then another one, then another. And so we were surrounded, my friend and I, by five cruisers for a registration.
Yeah, well, Monica, what if I mean, just imagine how dangerous she is out there with no car registration.
Yeah, that was the thing about it is that I decided I was going to protest, but then the consequence of that was being surrounded by all these cruisers. And I didn't know what was going to happen. I was afraid at that point. At first I was just like, you know, I'm not going to take this. And then but then it changed.
The fear went well again, that that's where identity is so interesting and tricky is like I have to imagine part of your internal monologue is like I go to Harvard, motherfucker. You cannot you know, like we sell you this idea that you could transcend this sentence by achieving something, but you can't on the side of the road. It doesn't it doesn't matter now.
It didn't matter. It didn't matter. And we were in a neighborhood that was predominantly blacks. I think that was part of it. It was you know, it's a lot to it. They surrounded us in that. We didn't get out of the car, and so, you know, one of the officers said, we'll just pull them out of there, right? So they pulled me out first. And this guy, he picks me up and he body slams me on the roof of the car, not the hood, but the roof.
I mean, he picked me up and and I you know, I just lost my breath.
I was gasping for air and sliding down to start to, like, start recalculating what the options are. Because I got to say, I've been in situations where I was actually antagonistic because the guy didn't radar the right person. Right.
So I'm indignant and I'm working with this framework of what's possible. Right. Well, he can't do this. And I'm allowed to say this. And I have to imagine when that gets shattered of like, oh, no, this thing's going in a direction that who knows where it ends.
Yeah, that's what I was afraid. Soon as I saw the cars, I'm like, OK, this cannot end well. I was afraid to get out because I didn't know what was going to happen to me. So it was just it was very frightening.
And that's worldview shifting. Right. So it's like you've accepted how things work for so long. This is part of the trauma of being molested is like you took for granted. Adults are benevolent and kind and helpful. And then you go, oh, fuck, no. I live in a world where people prey on people that the permanently alters everything going forward. And I have to imagine once you realize, like, oh, no, those rules don't apply to me at any point I could get severely taken advantage of or mistreated.
And I have to now proceed through life knowing that that's an option.
For me. It was exactly like that. Wow. Yeah. Everything changed that day.
People were out there on the street witnessing this. Right, because after a while, like a crowd gathered, it was like a big spectacle. And they did this in front of all those people. I mean, all of them were African-Americans. And I just they did it as though there was nobody there watching them.
Yeah. Yeah. And somebody even called out to us, you know, called out to me when I was on the roof. And I was I was sliding down the car and they called out, you know, are you OK? Are you OK?
And I couldn't even answer. So I said, why can't we all get along?
This was supposed Rodney King. It was Thoratec. I remember all of that. And and then I tried to, you know, so I have the handcuffs on and I remember my friend was telling me, don't resist. And I'm like, I wasn't resisting at all. Like, I was just like my body was like limp. Basically, the supervisor showed up on the scene and I asked him if he saw that, if he saw this guy body slamming on the car.
And he looked at me and he said, I didn't see a thing. Yeah.
And I thought, wow. Yeah.
Well, that's how we're treating acute five foot one hundred and ten pound or so.
You can only imagine you add in all the other highest levels. Oh yeah. Well, Jennifer, what a pleasure to talk to you. When we finally become students at Stanford, maybe we'll take your call.
Well, Jennifer, thank you so much for your time and your perspective and your work. It's so great to have that data to bring into the argument. It's essential. So thanks for spending your life studying this.
Oh, thank you. And thanks for having me. It's been a pleasure. Tell Rick I say hi. OK, I'm in the future. All right. All right. Thanks. Bye.